The 1980s was a decade of great innovation and progress in the world of pop culture, but especially so in the world of comedy. From timeless stand-up comedy to must-watch sketch shows and sitcoms, the 1980s produced some of the most controversial, influential, and best comedians of all time.
The names on this list are the cream of the crop, every one of them a trailblazer who changed the game and served as a source of inspiration for future generations of comedians and entertainers alike.
Whether you’re a fan of biting social commentary or just love some witty one-liners, these ten 1980s comedians made the masses laugh out loud. So without further ado, and in no particular order, let’s take a look at
The Best Comedians Of The 1980s
Eddie Murphy is arguably one of the greatest comedians of the 80s due to his exceptional comedic timing, razor-sharp wit, and ability to nail various forms of comedy.
Eddie exploded onto the scene as a cast member of a highly popular sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, it was his comedy specials that catapulted him to stardom.
1983s Delirious and 1987s Raw both showcased his remarkable ability to captivate audiences with gut-ripping anecdotes, spot-on impressions, and on-point social observations, all the while tackling some pretty controversial topics for the time.
In addition to his stand-up comedy routines, Murphy went on to star in a string of highly successful and downright funny films, including “48 Hrs” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” which cemented his status as one of the funniest American actors from the 80s.
Richard Pryor is widely considered one of the best 80s comedians, and indeed of all time, due to his unparalleled talent and monumental influence on the comedy scene.
Pryor’s unique and groundbreaking approach to comedy, which incorporated deeply personal experiences, improvisational observations, and biting social commentary, which was a departure from the traditional setup-punchline comedy style of the time, helped to transform the genre and pave the way for future generations of comedians.
In the 80s Richard Pryor accomplished what few of his contemporaries, and even fewer comedians since, have been able to do successfully: he fearlessly tackled difficult and controversial topics, including race, politics, and social issues, with remarkable honesty and insightful humor.
Robin Williams was widely regarded as one of the most versatile comedians of his time, and his ability to appeal to audiences of different ages and backgrounds was a testament to his skill and talent, and one of the main reasons he is on this list.
Williams was able to expertly and effortlessly incorporate a wide range of comedic styles into his performances, all delivered in rapid-fire style and with irreverent wit.
He was equally at home performing as a stand-up comedian, eerily accurate improvisations, and sketch comedy, and his performances were known for their blend of humor, pathos, and social commentary.
Additionally, his humor was equally appreciated by students, parents, and grandparents alike. He had a gift for finding the common ground between people, and his humor often focused on universal experiences and emotions.
Overall, Robin Williams’ impact on the comedy world in the 80s and beyond was significant, as he broke down barriers and pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in comedy. His talent, humor, and versatility continue to inspire and influence comedians and performers today.
George Carlin was widely regarded as one of the greatest comedians of all time, and his contributions to the comedy scene in the 1980s make him a strong candidate for any list of the top 10 comedians of the decade.
Throughout the comedic world, Carlin was known for his sharp wit, profound social commentary, and highly provocative humor.
His routines were defined by their unflinching honesty and formidable willingness to tackle controversial topics and challenge his audiences’ preconceptions and assumptions.
Overall, George Carlin’s impact on the comedy world in the 80s and beyond was significant, as he helped to pave the way for a new generation of comics who were unafraid to speak their minds and challenge the status quo.
Jerry Seinfeld deserves a spot on this list of the greatest comedians of the 80s for several reasons.
First, his brand of observational humor was surprisingly fresh and unique at the time. Jerry Seinfeld had a talent for finding humor in the most mundane aspects of everyday life which resonated widely with audiences.
Second, he was a top-tier master of stand-up comedy shows, and his live performances during the 80s were full of nervous energy, razor-sharp precision, and impeccable comedic timing. Seinfeld was a consummate professional and his tireless dedication to his craft was apparent every time he took the stage.
Finally, Jerry Seinfeld’s groundbreaking television show, aptly titled “Seinfeld”, which premiered in 1989 quickly became one of the most popular tv sitcoms of all time.
Overall, Jerry Seinfeld’s approach to comedy was groundbreaking in many ways, and it pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable comedy on the stage and on television. His contributions to the world of comedy cannot be overstated, and his impact on global pop culture is enduring.
Steve Martin is a master of subverting expectations.
In the 80s he had a fantastic ability to make audiences laugh with his blend of physical comedy, absurdist humor, and clever wordplay. He was known for fast-paced, high-energy performances that often incorporated elements of slapstick, surrealism, and satire.
Martin’s humor is characterized by the use of clever puns, unexpected irony, and witty one-liners, which he always delivers with impeccable deadpan timing.
Additionally, he often employs a highly relatable brand of self-deprecating humor, poking fun at his own status as a celebrity and his perceived lack of talent, which audiences can’t help but be endeared by.
Overall, Steve Martin’s comedy style is highly unique and innovative and has had a significant influence on the world of comedy since the 80s.
Joan Rivers joins this list of the top 10 comedians of the 80s because she was a trailblazer who broke barriers for women in comedy during a time when the industry was heavily male-dominated.
What set Rivers apart from her competition was her sharp tongue, irreverent attitude, and her abrasive, confrontational, and highly opinionated point of view.
Her sets almost always revolved around her own personal experiences, including relationships and struggles as a strong female in a world dominated by men, which gave her shows a dose of authenticity and relatability.
Joan Rivers was highly influential and inspirational to entire generations of female comedians, and despite getting involved in the world of fashion in the later years of her comedy career, her unique and irreverent comedy style remained a constant until her death.
Rodney Dangerfield rose to fame on the back of his self-deprecating humor, lightning-quick wit, and well-known catchphrases, including the timeless “I, don’t get no respect!”.
As one of the best stand-up comedians, Dangerfield’s shows were known for his trademark style of deadpan one-liners, and a light sprinkling of slapstick and vaudeville humor. He was a master of timing and delivery which made him a hit with audiences far and wide, but he was also loved by fellow comics for his generosity and willingness to help up-and-comers.
Perhaps most tellingly, Dangerfield’s unique brand of humor struck a chord with audiences during a time of country-wide recession when people were desperate for an escape.
His ability to turn personal struggles and insecurities into a brand of comedy that was hilarious and relatable turned him into a legend.
Sam Kinison rose to fame in the 1980s for his intense and controversial style of comedy.
Despite being born in a strict Pentecostal family, Kinison had a loud and quite aggressive delivery, and his jokes often dealt with taboo and controversial subject matter such as drugs, sex, and even religion.
Kininson liked to challenge his audiences, often using profanity and offensive opinions to shock and provoke a reaction from them.
Tragically, Kinison’s life and career were cut short in the early 90s when he was killed in a car accident. However, his impact on the world of comedy was rather profound, and he is still remembered as one of the most influential figures in a decade filled with big names and bigger personalities.
Billy Crystal became a household name by breaking ground as a comedian and actor as well as writer, and director.
Throughout his career, Crystal won 6 Primetime Emmy Awards, 4 American Comedy Awards, a Tony Award, a Grammy, a Mark Twain, and even a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, which do a better job of highlighting his immense talent for comedy than I can.
Billy Crystal’s style of comedy can best be described as versatile and character-driven, with plenty of punchlines and witty one-liners, but most of all, he is known for creating situations and characters that are relatable and feel real to audiences.
Crystal’s humor often drew on his own experiences and perspectives, but he was also known for his impressions, impersonations, and his ability to seamlessly transition between various characters and personas, which made him one of the most beloved figures in the world and one of the best stand-up comedians from the ’80s.